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"Parking in rear" is a pattern that I see in California, specifically in suburban downtown business districts such as Mountain View or Lake Avenue in Pasadena. It works pretty well: businesses have access from both front (main street) and back (parking lot), and the parking lots have entrances either on cross streets or streets parallel to the main one, so that the line of storefronts is not interrupted, and it allows for the main street to be traffic-calmed. I think it's a fairly effective pattern in that it allows for an island of walkability, though it creates some problems in the back where the parking lots are, which limits the growth of that island.


One minor logistical issue with parking in rear (which is not to say it isn't a good idea for businesses who depend on the patronage of motorists) is the issue of freight delivery. Businesses which have parking lots in front have loading docks in the back; when there are customer entrances on both sides, the issue of freight gets a bit trickier--but not unmanageable.

Ted King

The need for access to parking in the rear means a new use for alleys. And loading docks do not need to have a long, straight approach. An alternate configuration could be a sort of side pocket with enough room for the tractor unit to back out of the way (think inverted "L").

Paul C

In most cities in the older parts of those cites that were developed before WWII. You tend to notice a trend of store fronts being very close to the main road with an alley in the back. Buildings are close together so you don't get the wide open space between stores.

It was post WWII when suburbia started to gain ground and with the automobile become more prevalent. That we started to see the huge wide open parking lots in front of the stores. This was probably the biggest mistake ever made. What if instead of those huge parking lots they had put the buildings up against the road and had underground parking lots instead. They could have had more buildings/acre. But the failed miserably in that regard. The cheap wide open land outside of the central core of most cities allowed them build those wide open parking lots.

Peter Parker

@EngineerScotty: another consideration is that retailers may not always want two customer entrances - passive security is improved if all customers must walk past a single entrance, next to the main counter. It is possible to configure buildings to have an internal corridor, but it wastes floorspace.

So you'd have buildings being built without front doors, with pedestrians accessing the shop competing with exiting/entering cars.

Having said that, I agree with the post. It would have made a huge difference to being able to serve industrial areas with transit - something that tends to be neglected even though they are major employment areas.


Hey Peter that would not have been a problem, especially in an environment where sharing parking use was the law. Stores would have understood the value of having cashiers at both entrances if the visiting the street was a draw.

Next time you see a Dicks sporting goods store built outside an old but still active mall, check it out. There is typically a mall side entrance and a parking lot entrance, and folks that park in front pass through the store. That gives the store plenty of chances to show off its merchandise to folks that are just passing through.

At least one of the virtues of our aging indoor malls we should keep and try to transfer while it is not too late: Mall parking is shared parking. We should build the same expectations into our mixed use districts! But I notice the fencing and towing and name-stamping on the parking spaces behind our new mixed use developments. And it is catching like wildfire. It is sad, sad, sad.

Cap'n Transit

I agree with Peter Parker. In Port Chester the old Life Savers factory was redeveloped into condos, but all the street entrances were closed, leaving only the entrance in the back and sapping the street life on the entire block.

Yes, it's marginally better to have a pedestrian-friendly streetwall, but in the Northeast we've got tons of these hollowed-out old towns and it's not that much better. If nobody else is walking on the sidewalks they'll just get neglected and parked on anyway.

This is like saying "Make sure that your shit sandwiches are made with the freshest ingredients!" without really acknowledging that you're still eating shit.

Peter Parker

Thanks ES & CT.

This shows access to a similar 'big box' development in Australia. But unlike the example given above there is no zebra crossing or direct path to the door. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C-qGX4FXHc

Requiring direct pedestrian access from the street through legible paths and zebra crossings all the way would be a big step forward and would just need a bit of paint and minor works in the car park.

Tom West

The problem here is how to deal with those shops that are already set back from the street.

On the main commercial street where I live is a number of small mini-strip malls, with half a dozen or so small buisnesses, with a car park between the shopfront and the road. There is no financially sensisble way to "move" them closer to the road.

The best solution I can see would be to *extend* the buildings towards the road along the edge of the carpark to make a U shape (or L shape). That way, there would be a way to the setback shops that doesn't take you over an acre of car park.

In general, I don't think cities and towns should prescribe the amoutn of parking required, but let buisnesses choose the amount. They will be aware that customers who can't park can't spend money, so they will work to match parking supply to demand.


It seems that if the building is too far from the street, the solution is to move the street to the building, as I outlined in my article:


This requires a "non-linear" model of what a street can be.


Very interesting idea. It makes sense too to have the buildings by the street. It does take a lot of effort to walk from the bus stop to the grocery store, or where ever you're going.

Plus the giant parking lots in the front just looks nasty. I mean, you drive down a busy road, then there's a bunch of big box stores with giant parking lots in between you and them. A nice, solid storefront with some trees on the sidewalk or something would look better. I guess the idea with shopping centers though was that after you park and walk up to one store, then you'd walk around and look at other stores, but that hardly ever happens.

The only problem I see, and it's one you mentioned, was that if the road needs to be widened, or some kind of construction needs to be done under the road, it's pretty much impossible to do without destroying the building.

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